The U.S. Springfield Trapdoor Rifle is a classic rifle that evolved in mid to late nineteenth century from efforts to convert muskets to use self-contained cartridges loaded from the breech rather than the muzzle. In 1873, the U.S. Department of War adopted the .45-70 caliber cartridge as a standard for newly manufactured rifles. From Model 1873 onward, the .45-70 was used in Springfield Trapdoor rifles.
It’s been a long time since I shot a U.S. Springfield .45-70 Trapdoor rifle. But, I still remember the experience vividly. It was a work-related shooting. Everyone at my workplace brought their guns out to the country and we went target shooting. One of our hosts had the Springfield Trapdoor. I only got to fire a few rounds, but I remember that I was told to aim low and that the rounds left a big, easily seen, hole in my target.
Since my initial experience, I’ve read up on the Springfield Trapdoor and learned a few things about the rifle. Here are 10 things you should know about the Springfield .45-70 Trapdoor rifle:
1. The Rifle served in the Spanish-American War. Volunteer units carried the Springfield Trapdoor .45-70 into combat in Cuba. Regular Army troops carried bolt-action Krag-Jorgenson rifles.
2. The .45-70 round was a blackpowder cartridge that gave away a shooter’s position and obscured the battlefield with smoke.
3. The Springfield Trapdoor was used for training purposes during World War I.
4. Never fire a Springfield .45-70 with a cartridge loaded to modern specifications. Today, the modern .45-70 cartridge is used for hunting big-game in North America. If you use the modern cartridge in the old trapdoor rifle, you may damage yourself and the rifle.
5, To load a Springfield Trapdoor, you half-cock the rifle, lift up a thumblatch, swing the trapdoor breech block open, insert the cartridge, and close the door.
6. At 100 yards, a .45-70 Springfield Trapdoor Rifle will shoot about 12-inches high. According to trapdoorcollector.com, the Springfield Trapdoor Rifle is sighted in for a minimum range of 250 yards.
7. According to thetruthaboutguns.com, the Springfield Trapdoor rifle was an excellent rifle for buffalo hunting. According , “Its muzzle velocity of 1,350 feet/second would allow it to penetrate 17 inches of white pine at 100 yards, certainly enough to kill a buffalo.”
8. In volley fire situations or in the hands of excellent marksmen, the Springfield Rifle could be hard-hitting an accurate out beyond 1000 yards. According to a 2003 Rifle magazine article, the military conducted volley fire tests in 1879 that showed the .45-70 cartridge could penetrate 1-inch of hardwood at a range of 3680 yards.
9. There are rifle and carbine version of the Springfield Trapdoor available.
10. The Springfield Trapdoor has a pretty good amount of kick and a steel butt-plate.
Garry Jones. “U.S. Springfield .45-70 Trapdoor” Guns & Ammo: The Shooters Guide to Classic Firearms. Stoeger Press. Accokeek, Maryland. 2006.
U.S. Springfield Trapdoor Rifle Information Center, trapdoorcollector.com
Dan Zimmerman, “Rock Island Auctions: The Springfield Trapdoor Rifle” TheTruthAboutGuns.com, October 23, 2013.
“Model 1873 U.S. Springfield at Long Range”, Rifle Magazine, September-October 2003.